What is the deadliest movie ever made? Is it a 1980s action flick? Or is it maybe a gore-filled horror movie? Actually, it’s neither: the bloodiest movie ever made is a family-friendly blockbuster!
Finding reliable movie kill counts is difficult. This is hardly surprising. After all, there are plenty of violent movies out there and who has time for all that counting? Recently, Go Compare published their list of deadliest movies ever filmed. However, as several articles were quick to point out, their metrics and data are somewhat suspicious.
Meanwhile, the good men and women at moviebodycounts.com have been tallying the movie dead since 2005. They follow specific guidelines for what constitutes a “movie kill”. Only the physically visible kills and dead bodies count, while hypothetical, implied, and off-screen deaths don’t. The main advantage of this approach is that it makes the counting far simpler. Let’s face it: we could probably argue forever about the exact population killed in the destruction of planet Alderaan in the first Star Wars movie or a number of people killed during General Zod’s attack on Metropolis in Man of Steel.
So, with a tip of the hat towards all the detailed listings of each individual death in a given movie compiled by the fans at Movie Body Counts, here’s a list with the 15 Deadliest Movies Ever Made, Ranked By Body Count.
15. Bullet in the Head (214)
In the late 1980s, John Woo (Mission: Impossible II, Face/Off) has been rightfully hailed as one of the most creative action directors working in Hong Kong. His movie Bullet in the Head is a good example of his style. This action crime film follows three friends and small-time criminals: Ben (Tony Leung), Frank (Jacky Cheung) and Paul (Waise Lee). After killing a member of the rival gang, the trio decides to leave Hong Kong for Vietnam. It’s 1967 but despite the raging war, they believe they could earn a fortune smuggling contraband goods.
In Saigon, the three friends meet Luke the hitman (Simon Yam). However, all of their plans soon begin to fall apart. Accosted at every turn by rival gangs and the Vietcong militia, the three gangsters grow bitter, greedy and cruel. There are 214 on-screen kills in Bullet in the Head. Luke kills 60 people, followed by Paul (40 kills), Ben (23 kills) and Frank (21 kills).
14. Equilibrium (236)
Equilibrium takes place in a dystopian sci-fi future in which government outlawed all feelings and art forms. John Preston (Christian Bale – The Dark Knight trilogy) is one of the Clerics – members of the secret police tasked with hunting down and executing various dissidents who refuse to take government-issued drugs that help suppress emotions. But once he accidentally skips his daily dosage of the drug, Preston finds himself experiencing guilt and questioning his actions.
This all sounds very dour, but Equilibrium is first and foremost an action movie. Director Kurt Wimmer is heavily indebted to John Woo’s action movies. Equilibrium features an impressive 236 on-screen kills, half of which (118) belong to John Preston. Like all Clerics, Preston is a master of Gun kata – a martial arts discipline that combines hand-to-hand combat with firearms. Like all really cool concepts, Gun kata is simultaneously patently ridiculous and completely awesome… which is a pretty good description of Equilibrium itself.
13. Rambo (247)
The saga of Rambo begins with First Blood, based on a novel by David Morell and released in 1982. Sylvester Stallone plays John Rambo, a former Green Beret suffering from PTSD who fights back after being repeatedly harassed by the small-town sheriff (Brian Dennehy) and his cronies.
While the first movie has at least some semblance to reality we live in and features a single death, its sequels give us Rambo in a full-on superhero mode. This culminates in the 2008 action movie Rambo, by far the bloodiest of all three sequels. Almost 250 characters get killed on screen, not counting various strewn bodies and Rambo’s bomb that potentially kills hundreds of Burmese soldiers. For comparison, Rambo: First Blood Part II depicts around 67 kills on-screen while Rambo III has 127 kills. In Rambo, John Rambo sends about 87 people to the afterlife using a variety of means, like a .50-caliber machine gun or his bare hands.
12. Saving Private Ryan (255)
An epic war movie directed by Steven Spielberg, Saving Private Ryan takes place in the aftermath of the 1944 Normandy Invasion as Captain John H. Miller (Tom Hanks – Inferno) and his soldiers search for Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon – Jason Bourne) in the ruins of Nazi-occupied France. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards and winning five, Saving Private Ryan has an ensemble cast that includes Vin Diesel (Furious 7), Tom Sizemore (Black Hawk Down), Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad), Nathan Fillion (Firefly) and many others.
Saving Private Ryan is notable for its brutal opening depicting an Allied landing on the Omaha beach on June 6th, 1944. Omaha beach was one of the five code-named sectors designated for the Allied landing. However, due to numerous mistakes, carefully prepared amphibious assault turned into a bloodbath in which over two thousand Allied soldiers died. The opening of Saving Private Ryan alone features around 100 deaths, most of them American soldiers killed by the Germans. All in all, there are 255 kills in the movie.
11. Starship Troopers (256)
Starship Troopers is a vicious satire that ridicules glorification of violence while glorifying over-the-top violence. It’s a neat trick and director Paul Verhoeven (Total Recall, RoboCop) pulls it off marvelously. In the future, a fascist government that rules our world wages a bloody war against giant space bugs that threaten us – Or do they? – from the other side of the galaxy. As pretty young soldiers like Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) and Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards) get brutally slaughtered, one gets the distinct impression that their leaders really have no idea how to wage a war.
Since the Movie Body Counts guidelines ignore implied deaths and focus only on deaths and dead bodies featured on screen, we ignore the 9 million people killed in the bugs’ attack on Buenos Aries. We also ignore a number of maimed human bodies which are too hard to count because they’re all in pieces. That leaves us with 256 kills – 128 humans and 128 bugs. Johnny Rico gets to kill 15 bugs and a human, while his pals Sugar Watkins (Seth Gilliam) and Ace Levy (Jake Busey) get 13 and 8 kills respectively.
10. We Were Soldiers (305)
We Were Soldiers depicts the Battle of the Ia Drang Valley that took place in November of 1965. This was the first large land battle between US forces and North Vietnamese troops. Mel Gibson plays Lieutenant Colonel Hal Moore, sent to battle with his newly created air cavalry unit. It is only once they arrive in the “Valley of Death” that the US soldiers realize they are woefully outnumbered by the enemy.
The movie was written and directed by Randall Wallace (who also wrote Braveheart) based on the book We Were Soldiers Once… And Young written by Lieutenant General Hal Moore and war correspondent Joseph L. Galloway. Since this is a war film, We Were Soldiers has an impressive body count of over 300 kills. However, individual characters score relatively few of them. Col. Moore has 15 kills, Sgt. Maj. Plumley (played by Sam Elliott) has 7 while Major Bruce P. Crandall (Greg Kinnear) scores only 5 kills.
9. Titanic (307)
We all know the story of RMS Titanic, a luxury passenger liner thought to be unsinkable. It sank during its maiden voyage on April 15th, 1912, thus creating – as an Onion article deftly puts it – a world’s largest metaphor for the mankind’s hubris. The sinking of Titanic is a type of an epic disaster that’s just perfect for a movie, which is why at least a dozen of them were made over the last century.
James Cameron’s 1997 romantic drama Titanic may be a tragic love story between the rich heiress (Kate Winslet) and the struggling artist (Leonardo DiCaprio), but it also delivers some epic destruction for all the guys forced to watch Titanic with their girlfriends for the tenth time. While we don’t actually get to see the deaths of all 1500 plus crewmen and passengers that went down with the ship, we do see respectable 307 deaths, mostly by drowning and freezing in the cold waters of the north Atlantic.
8. Hard Boiled (307)
Released in 1992, Hard Boiled was the last movie John Woo made before his move from Hong Kong to Hollywood where he’ll spend the next 15 years. A simple story about two cops taking on an entire criminal organization, Hard Boiled features stylized scenes of over-the-top violence.
Inspector “Tequila” Yuen (Chow Yun-fat) is a loose cannon who plays by his own rules. But when he meets an undercover cop named Alan (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), they must join forces to defeat the gang led by unscrupulous Johnny Wong (Anthony Wong). Their battle escalates until Wong’s mobsters take an entire hospital hostage and “Tequila” Yuen has to fight mob hit men while evacuating babies from the maternity ward. By the end of Hard Boiled, Tequila gets to kill 77 people; Alan kills 52 mobsters while Wong’s gang kills more than a hundred people. All in all, Hard Boiled features 307 onscreen kills.
7. Grindhouse (310)
Grindhouse is a 2007 double-feature film consisting out of Planet Terror (written and directed by Robert Rodriguez) and Deathproof (written and directed by Quentin Tarantino). Inspired by the cheap exploitation flicks often shown as a double feature in grindhouse movie theatres, the movie also includes fake trailers for the non-existent movies like the horror flicks Thanksgiving or Werewolf Women of the SS. Since Grindhouse bombed at the box office, both Planet Terror and Deathproof were later released separately on the international market.
Considering some of his other movies, Tarantino’s Deathproof is almost disappointingly subdued, featuring only eight kills in a story about a psychopathic stunt driver (Kurt Russell – Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). Planet Terror more than makes up for it though, featuring more than 280 kills in a story about the epidemic of mutated zombie-like humans. Fake trailers contribute further 21 kills. Altogether, Grindhouse features fairly respectable 310 kills.
6. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Extended Edition) (468)
Nowadays, it’s hard to believe that Peter Jackson once directed low-budget horror flicks like Bad Taste (1987) and Braindead (1992). In the late 1990s, it was equally hard to believe that any film studio would allow Jackson to direct not just one blockbuster movie, but three at once! Jackson proved everyone wrong and his The Lord of the Rings movies became wildly successful all over the world.
As befits a film by a former horror director, The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers features plenty of on-screen violence, although it is considerably toned down from Jackson’s early splatter horrors. Almost 400 Orcs and Uruk-Hai die in the movie, most of them in the climactic battle at Helm’s Deep and in the capturing of Isengard. 52 humans and 25 elves join them in the afterlife. Also, remember the kill contest between Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies)? Legolas totally wins it by killing 22 Orcs and 4 Wargs, while Gimli slaughters merely 12 Orcs and 2 Wargs.
5. The Last Samurai (558)
Released in 2003, historical war film The Last Samurai tells an epic story about the last samurai warrior in the 19th century Japan… who just happens to be a thoroughly fictional American. Tom Cruise plays Captain Nathan Algren, US Army officer struggling with alcoholism and PTSD. He accepts the job of training soldiers in the newly formed Imperial Japanese Army. However, he is captured by Lord Katsumoto (Ken Watanabe), a leader of rebel samurai warriors who refuse to accept the rapid modernization of Japan. Learning about their culture, Algern finds a new purpose in life by joining a fight to restore such noble traditions as feudalism and serfdom.
There’s plenty of death and destruction in The Last Samurai. Algern leads with 41 kills and Katsumoto is the close second with 26 kills. Most of the kills occur during the movie’s climactic final battle where the artillery and the Gatling guns mow down the samurai warriors. All in all, 558 deaths occur in the movie.
4. Troy (Unrated Director’s Cut) (572)
Troy is an epic war film that very loosely depicts the events of Homer’s epic poem The Iliad that, in turn, very loosely depicts the events of the Trojan War. Directed by Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, In the Line of Fire, Outbreak), Troy features an ensemble cast that includes Brad Pitt as Achilles, Eric Bana as Hector, Orlando Bloom as Paris, Sean Bean as Odysseus, Helen Kruger as Helen of Troy, Peter O’Toole, Rose Byrne, Brian Cox, Brendan Gleeson and many others.
Unrated director’s cut of the movie adds numerous scenes of carnage, both during the battles and after the Greeks finally conquer Troy. Body count is particularly impressive during the pitched battle at the gates of Troy (192 kills) and during the sack of the city (89 kills). Achilles manages to kill 35 people, followed by Hector (14 kills) and Odysseus (13 kills). All together, Troy has a kill count of approximately 572 dead people.
3. 300 (600)
This would hardly be a proper list of deadliest movies without at least one title by the blockbuster auteur Zack Snyder. His first feature film was a remake of George Romero’s cult horror film Dawn of the Dead. But it was 300, Synder’s 2007 adaptation of Frank Miller’s paean to the manly manliness of the ancient Spartans, which truly made him famous worldwide.
300 isn’t really a historical film about the Battle of Thermopylae that took place in 480 BC. It is more of a sword-and-sorcery spectacle complete with monsters and over-the-top action that would make Conan the Barbarian weep with joy. As macho heroes led by King Leonidas (scenery-chewing Gerard Butler – London Has Fallen) dish out gory deaths to grotesquely deformed Persians led by God-King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro – Westworld), around 600 characters die – most of them Persians, of course. There’s also a dead wolf, a rhinoceros, some elephants pushed into the Mediterranean sea and a truckload of baby bones.
2. Kingdom of Heaven (Director’s Cut) (610)
In 2005, Ridley Scott (Prometheus, The Martian) directed Kingdom of Heaven, an ambitious historical epic set during the Crusades. In it, we follow a humble medieval blacksmith Balian (Orlando Bloom) as he embarks on a trip to the Holy Land. There, leper king Baldwin IV (Edward Norton) struggles to maintain a fragile peace between Christians and the Muslims. However, a faction led by Raynald of Châtillon (Brendan Gleeson) and Guy de Lusignan (Marton Csokas) works hard to rekindle hostilities with sultan Saladin (Ghassan Massoud).
Kingdom of Heaven features spectacular medieval battle scenes, including the defense of the Kerak fortress (47 kills), battle in the desert (103 kills) and the final siege of Jerusalem (over 300 kills). Orlando Bloom’s Balian doesn’t waste time either, killing 40 people throughout the movie. Excluding thousands of dead bodies that are practically impossible to count, we nevertheless get an impressive tally of 610 kills.
1. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Extended Edition) (836)
And here it is, the deadliest movie ever filmed! Or at least, the deadliest one according to the Movie Body Counts. Mind you, we are talking about the extended edition of Return of the King that is over four hours long. Four hours! Imagine what kind of carnage could John Rambo, John McClane, John Matrix or any other action hero named John do in that amount of time!
Being the climax of The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, Return of the King features truly epic battle scenes. All the characters get a chance to shine while slaughtering over 500 Orcs and Uruk-Hai. And yet, individual tallies are relatively modest: Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) has 17 kills, Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gandalf (Ian McKellen) have 11 kills each, Eowyn (Miranda Otto) kills 9 opponents (including the Witch King, who can be killed by no man) while dwarf warrior Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) has only 5 kills. Finally, it’s interesting to note that Orlando Bloom, who’s nobody’s idea of an action movie superstar, appears in four out of fifteen titles featured on this list.
What are your favorite movies featuring chaos and carnage? Share your thoughts and comments below!